A Comprehensive Approach: A Typical Patient Journey

If you have been diagnosed with DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) or invasive breast cancer, you can expect to follow most of these steps.

  1. Biopsy result shows cancer: A pathologist looks at your biopsy specimen under the microscope and notifies the radiologist or surgeon of the results.
  2. Radiologist or surgeon calls or meets with you to explain your diagnosis: If you have a core biopsy, the diagnostic radiologist who did the biopsy tells you the results. If you have a surgical biopsy, the cancer surgeon who did the biopsy tells you the results. This is done at an appointment or by phone.
  3. Treatment plan is determined: Treatment plans vary depending on your diagnosis and the stage of your cancer. You will meet with members of your team to determine the best treatment plan. You will have the chance to ask questions, evaluate options and work with your team to determine the best treatment plan for you.
  4. Examination and consultation with plastic surgeon if considering reconstruction: If you are considering having a mastectomy and/or breast reconstruction, we encourage you to view a video about choices for breast reconstruction before you see a plastic surgeon. This video is available at the Center for Shared Decision Making and is called "Breast Reconstruction: Is It Right for You?"
  5. Surgery and recovery: Your surgeon and the surgical nurse give you information about your surgery appointment, what to expect at the hospital and what your recovery will be like.
  6. Pathology results determine if more surgery is needed: A pathologist looks at the tissue the surgeon removed to see if there are cancer cells at the edge of the removed breast tissue (called the margin) or in any lymph nodes. In some cases, more surgery may be needed. This may be a "re-excision” if more breast tissue must be taken or an “axillary lymph node dissection” if more lymph nodes must be taken.
  7. Appointment(s) with medical oncologist and/or radiation oncologist for treatment planning: A staff member will call you to arrange your appointments based on your individual needs. Most women meet with a medical oncologist. All women who have lumpectomies meet with a radiation oncologist, as do some women who have mastectomies.
  8. IF APPLICABLE, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or radiation therapy begins: These appointments are scheduled after you meet with the medical oncologist.
  9. Periodic follow-up by a surgeon or an oncologist and regular mammograms for five years: After you finish initial treatment, you are followed closely by the members of your care team. How often you are seen depends, in part, on your individual situation.
  10. Palliative care is also available. We are dedicated to ensuring that patients experiencing a life-threatening illness are comfortable and maintain a quality of life during their care. Palliative care addresses not only physical needs, but also the spiritual and emotional well-being of patients and families.